Archive for the ‘Welcome’ Category

Brexit and My “Pelican Boat” Woodcut Print - Raf. Pittman

Mardi, avril 25th, 2017

As presented by BCiP member and artist Raf. Pittman at our AGM on the 19th April, here is the unabridged story of “Pelican Boat”, his personal account of the creation of the original woodcut print from Lima via Havana to the press in Paddington:

This time last year (April 2016) was a very different political scenario when campaigning had not yet started and when Brexit was largely associated with UKIP, a political deviation in terms of party and following from the “Voters’ Parties and Leaders (1967 )” by Jean Blondel , a text for politics students like myself.

By June 23rd and the referendum we were “out” - the cryptic text I received from a friend in London as I sat on a bench with my iPhone on La Rampa, the main highway in Havana where you can receive wifi with an official prepaid internet coupon.

Shock. My whole career since reading European Studies at Bristol University was about the new world order, a united Europe where I learned the skills of foreign trade, was trained in London, Hamburg and Paris for British multinationals , in a world of peace and harmony for which my father had served in the Armed Forces 1939 to 1945; an England that had welcomed my mother as a Basque teenage evacuee from Nazi Germany aggression.

I was truly saddened that those British voters who voted for the leave campaign had not sufficient understanding of the issues (there was no meaningful and coherent plan policy and analysis), that were to change the course of our history by taking us out of the European Union, and annoyed with David Cameron for wanting to consolidate his position (also maybe giving into the perceived UKIP threat) by offering the electorate a referendum. Worse was to follow with squabbling Tories vying for the leadership when the PM resigned, although sense appeared with the election of Theresa May to replace him, seen as a safe pair of hands at the helm.

This last week in June was my last week in Cuba where I had been working on a print that I had developed in January 2016 from my crayon drawing of pelicans on a boat anchored off the coast of Ica a desert region in south Peru. The flimsy piece of plywood I brought with me to Cuba (wood is in short supply) took shape from a monoprint I made earlier in Cienfuegos , central Cuba, at a society for artists. Then via bus train and ferry I reached the experimental artists workshop in Havana where I had booked myself in for a second fortnight the first being in 2014.

This was the first time I had seriously attempted a woodcut print and news of Brexit added to my ennui, with the project ending up in a mixed media print/ monoprint, the sort of art for which I am known at the Taller Grafica Experimental . The wood cut print per se was clearly still unfinished although we had taken some 20 prints from the ancient press to be used for future mixed media work. Within a few days I had packed half my plywood and donated the other half to my very able colleagues and was back at Heathrow but still with a wedge of dodgy prints.

Again within days I was at an art facility near Paddington and bingo!! Pelican Boat was born as a fully fledged woodcut print. It seemed both myself and Brexit had come out triumphant after a battering maritime journey full of metaphors: uncharted waters, ill-prepared , beleaguered. And yet like Sir Francis Drake’s original vanguard “The Pelican” , renamed “The Golden Hind”, there was suddenly promise in this bold confident venture with global vision reminiscent of Drake’s voyage to the New World, and also in my print that had a purpose and meaning now in carrying the spirit of Britain and Brexit.

Raf. Pittman

NATO: A Trusty Shield and Friend under Threat by Peter Huggins

Jeudi, février 23rd, 2017

Since Russia in the later years of the post Cold War period has become increasingly bellicose and especially since the Russian incursions in the Ukraine, NATO has been facing severe challenges. The situation has been aggravated by several powerful factors, including the resurgent EU bid for a military function and status. Britain’s loss of say in EU defence issues with Brexit, the erosion of democracy in Turkey, and the advent of President Trump with his iconoclastic attitude to European and North Atlantic defence .All these factors are threatening an institution that has served Europe well, protecting the existence of independent European countries since the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 and the creation of SHAPE in 1951. Among its achievements, NATO has to its credit the attrition of the military power of the Soviet Union, a main factor in the demise of that bloc, and, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, facilitating the re-integration of East Germany , and the Central European and Baltic countries in the democratic community.

From the outset,Britain has played an important role in NATO. It was the British Prime Minister, Clement Atlee, and Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who took the key initiative with the US in launching the North Atlantic Treaty signed in April 1949. Since then, British support of NATO has been steadfast. For those of us living on the Continent outside of the re-assuring insular security of the British Isles, the importance of NATO, and its present problems and tasks, emerges in particularly sharp focus.. The Munich Security Conference of February 2017 provided an incentive to re-consider Britain’s position within NATO and present threats to the security of the democratic world.

The situation in 2017 is unfavourable. For the first time in its history, the role and future of NATO has been called into question by the President of the USA. He has exchanged reassuring words with the British PM but confidence in the long-term commitment of the US to NATO has been undermined and President Trump is a long way from determining clearly what will now be the strategy of the US as leader of NATO. His policy on NATO is unpredictable and what he says about NATO often seems arbitrary and even incoherent. At the same time, mainly with a view to expand EU Commission and Parliament activities into new areas, arguably for the sake of EU expansion anywhere regardless of purpose or utility, EU leaders are attempting to build military structures to replace or compete with NATO structures. This process is being accelerated and encouraged by Brexit because the UK had been until now the anchor of EU countries within NATO. At the same time, the EU Commission , although keen to become a player in the military sphere, is not encouraging its members to spend more on defence. On the contrary, perhaps, because Mr. Juncker forcefully rejected the US plea at the Munich Security Conference that EU countries should meet their NATO 2% of GDP defence spending commitment. He argued that EU countries were doing much in development aid and the like which absolved them from their expenditure NATO commitments. This is damaging for all EU and NATO countries but particularly dangerous in a German election year. It suggests collusion and support of the Commission with the SPD in its election campaign. The SPD Foreign Minister in the German government and Juncker’s mutual support friend in the EU, the SPD Chancellor candidate Schulz, has echoed and amplified Juncker’s dangerous message while Chancellor Merkel and her Defence Minister, Ursula van der Leyen, have responded positively to the US plea for greater respect of the 2% commitment.

Russia, in the meantime, is expanding its military budget rapidly, regardless of the crushing poverty of much of its population. In Georgia, the Caucasas, Syria and elsewhere, it is achieving its military and political objectives. In the Ukraine, Russian forces posing as indigenous Russian speaking patriots are consolidating and expanding their positions. Although exact numbers are difficult to obtain, there is ample evidence of the presence in the Eastern Ukraine and the Crimea of huge numbers of Russian tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, rocket launchers and aircraft The expansion of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea and Mediterranean area is also clearly apparent. EU and NATO support for the Ukraine has been lukewarm and ineffective. Further expansion by Russia might meet only token resistence. In the meantime, Russian minorities in the Baltic countries are being ‘stirred up’ to an extent that Putin could justify intervention to ‘protect’ them. NATO forces in the area are being expanded, particularly by Germany and Poland. While welcome, the numbers involved are unlikely to impress Russian strategists Overall, Russia is making huge investments in its nuclear arsenal, high-tech air defences, already massive armoured strength, submarines and other warships. It is testing the NATO shield with frequent ‘buzzing’ and incursions, continuously probing to test what it can do with impunity. On the IT front, there is strong evidence of Russian meddling in the French presidential election and the German Bundestag election. More generally, Russia is rapidly building its capacity for cyber warfare. This involves the whole gamut of cyber weapons. Cyberthefts of confidential government files attributed to Russia have been reported in many countries including the Ukraine, Germany and the USA. Use of cyberweapons and malware against government and power supply systems has been reported from the Ukraine. A former Russian intelligence officer has described mechanisms used for Russian disinformation and disguised propaganda in the US.

The weakening of NATO in Europe is also being aggravated by the strong development of extreme nationalist political movements in Europe. Unthinkable some years ago, the Front National is now a strong and well-established force in France. Similar movements are thriving in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and elsewhere, some of them distinctly friendly towards Russia and indifferent to the fate of the Ukraine and the Baltic States. Britain’s own UKIP has one foot in this club. Paradoxically, these ‘right wing’ movements are often sympathetic to Russia. As at the time of the Ribbentrop/Molotov Pact, a common loathing of ‘decadent bourgeois capitalism’ is a unifying factor between forces of the extreme left and right.

Britain can claim to make one of the strongest contributions to NATO of any EU country It is one of only four countries of 28 meeting their NATO budgetary commitments. (Another is Greece, an economy held on life-support by its creditors, which spends huge amounts defending itself against Turkey, a NATO partner.) In fact, the British record on defence is unimpressive, qualitatively if not quantitatively. Successive strategic defence reviews have accurately diagnosed the growing proliferation of security threats to Britain and her allies. Governments have responded perversely by imposing an arbitrary limit to defence spending. It was approached from the wrong end in that they opted for, not what was needed to do the job, but what seemed the plausible minimum. Threats to British security and interests have increased dramatically but the defence budget has been severely constrained. The peace dividend has long since proven to be a chimera. New threats emerge constantly from rogue states, terrorism, territory grabbing and piracy, all often backed by sophisticated weapons. . Britain is unable to respond effectively to these threats. Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine, for example, constitutes almost a carbon copy of the Nazi takeover of the Sudetenland but it has drawn little more than raised eyebrows from Britain which has preferred to remain on the sidelines and witness France and Germany coming away from meetings with Russia about the Ukraine clutching re-assuring pieces of paper.. Meanwhile, ex-German Chancellor Schroeder actively promotes the increasing dominance of the European gas market by Gasprom, an economic and political arm of the Russian government, notably by promoting the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany via the Baltic, avoiding Poland at great cost.

In several recent dangerous situations , the British government could have sent a clear diplomatic and military message if it had possessed the army, air force and particularly, naval forces available for speedy movement to the danger zone. Compared to a continental country such as Germany or Poland, there is an obvious and natural naval vocation for Britain. Moreover, naval forces are needed because of their ability to deploy vessels flexibly in international waters without diplomatic clearances. If they were available, naval response groups could provide the ability to operate aircraft in locations chosen by the government ,virtually British islands mobile in the high seas with major control and command potential. As of now, Britain has neither the carriers nor the aircraft. The scarce resources available should at least to be used efficiently and effectively in naval task groups held in a permanent state of readiness for rapid response . In particular, aircraft carriers and their supporting frigates, destroyers and submarines, have been neglected to an extent completely incompatible with Britain’s pretensions to act as a naval power.

More generally, however, with naval, land and air forces, Britain and its European allies should build on the success of NATO which has held the line since soon after the Soviet takeovers of the then democratic countries, Czechoslovakia and Hungary in the late 1940s, the blockade of Berlin and the salvation in the 1950s of countries such as France and Italy which seemed ripe for Communist coups d’Etat.

Within the British military budget, there is much evidence that limited resources are being used badly. Drones ordered twelve years ago are not yet available for frontline service, tanks do not fit into the transport aircraft intended to carry them and the much-vaunted Type 45 destroyers are so noisy that they are easily detectable by Russian submarines at great distance. They also have defective diesel generators which will take many years to replace. The Type 26 frigates have had to be re-designed to provide landing for SAS helicopters. The one aircraft carrier appears to have no suitable aircraft to carry. Britain now has fewer front line troops than Poland. (Top marks to the Poles!) More generally, the MoD has a firmly established tradition of downgrading, tinkering with obsolete technology and inefficient extension systems.

NATO is now some 66 years old and has many achievements to its credit. In spite of EU Commission claims, most serious historians attribute the ‘Cold War Peace’ and the eventual crumbling of the Iron Curtain to NATO, not the EU. Indeed, a key EU member and important but volatile military power, France, withdrew from the military organisation of NATO from 1966 to 2009, and weakened NATO politically by ‘playing footsie with the Kremlin’.

While NATO was never able to compete with the Soviet Union/Russia in terms of men and tanks, the technical superiority of the US, including the nuclear shield, were overriding factors. NATO did a good job, ask the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Latvians, the Estonians. They will tell you that NATO is more important to them than the EU, in spite of the lavish subsidies..

While Putin and Trump are, in their very different ways, an existential threat to NATO, a real immediate danger in Europe comes from the EU Commission and Parliament. For political, super state aspirational reasons implausible players such as Mogherini and Juncker, aspire to an EU military command in Brussels/ Strasburg which would arrogate to itself powers siphoned off from the NATO military and political organisations. Among the principles of William of Ockham, there is one of profound banality but great importance, ‘entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem’, that is, you should not create entities of any kind unless they do a job that was not being done before. An EU military command would be less efficient and a worse use of resources than a body within NATO looking after European interests. Moreover, it would risk discouraging the military and political commitment of the US, and encouraging President Trump to downgrade the US NATO commitment which dwarfs anything available from EU countries. From the viewpoint of France , for example, that might perhaps appear politically desirable. Other EU countries should beware. We need NATO to guarantee our existence. We should beware of the EU using new defence arrangements as a building block for a European super state.

NATO has been doing a good job for some 66 years but that is of little importance for those who wish to use defence as a means to expand the operations of the EU to new areas gradually covering all the responsibilities of the nation state regardless of mandate or efficiency. Brussels sees the control of armed forces as essential to its aim of creating a United States of Europe. The European Parliament on 24 November 2015 even endorsed a report recommending that the Security Council seats of Britain and France should be abolished and replaced by one for the European Union.. The call for a European army is political, not based on efficiency or the basic necessity for European countries to ensure their own survival. Against the background of Trump’s unpredictable policies, Britain should use all its powers of persuasion and diplomacy to ensure the cohesion and strengthening of NATO. It should also play a much more convincing operational role by increasing its defence budget and, above all, ensuring that its military capabilities are modern and fully efficient. Britain has a solid military and diplomatic tradition. It should be providing a model to other European countries. Such policies and actions would provide desperately needed encouragement to Britain’s friends and allies in Europe, helping to restore Europe as a paragon of freedom and democracy in a world where these precious qualities are under threat.

Until 2011, the UK and both EU and non-EU countries had an excellent fall-back mechanism for European cooperation on defence and foreign policies in the shape of the West European Union. It was prematurely deemed to be superfluous, largely because of the continuing UK integration in to the EU at that time. The WEU survives in its inter-parliamentary European Security and Defence Association which regains importance as Brexit takes effect. It deserves urgent support from the UK.

During her speech to the Republican Party in Philadelphia last month, Prime Minister May said of Britain’s commitment to its NATO and EU allies ‘we cannot stand idly by when the threat is real and it is in our own interests to intervene’. Whatever individual positions on Brexit, which has sorely divided the Conservative Party, the PM’s position on NATO and defence is surely one that the whole of the Party should endorse wholeheartedly. The erosion of the free territories of Europe cannot be ignored nor sacrificed to the vainglory of EU empire building.

Peter Huggins
BCiP Member

In publishing this article Peter Huggins also wishes to acknowledge the considerable help received from his RN Association friends in Paris, notably Captain Colin Cameron, RN, former Head of the WEU Secretariat, and his Coder Special Baltic/GCHQ friends with whom he has kept close contact after some sixty years. Sir Roger Carrick, of that group, was particularly helpful on the political side of the draft. Robin Baker also helped but we agreed to differ on matters EU.

Why I am no longer a member of BCiP - Robin Baker

Mardi, février 7th, 2017

No-one who knows me will be in any doubt as to how difficult and painful it was for me to decide to leave the Conservative Party, after having been a member since 1958. That decision can be explained very simply, I can no longer vote Conservative in general elections in the UK, so how can I remain a Party member? But I need to explain this change in my voting intentions.

I voted for David Cameron in the election for Party Leader at the end of 2005. I had heard his speech at the Party Conference a little earlier at which I had represented British Conservatives in Paris. It was brilliant. Cameron gave me the impression that, as Leader, he might well be able to end the period of Labour rule that Britain had been enduring since 1997.

Of course he did win the election and become Prime Minister, initially of a coalition government. As Prime Minister he had many important achievements that benefited the country. However he also had one failing which led to his downfall: that was his willingness to sacrifice the long term interest for short term political advantage.

This was shown firstly in his promise, if elected leader, to withdraw Conservative MEPs from the European People’s Party in the European Parliament. He did so in order to ensure that he would be one of the top two candidates in the vote by MPs, and thus be part of the choice to be made by the Party membership. That was, in fact, unnecessary; in the final vote by MPs Cameron came comfortably top with 90 votes, i.e. 45% of the total, thanks to most MPs who voted for Clarke in the first round switching to Cameron in the second. It is not possible to think that any MP who had initially voted for Clarke, then decided to vote for Cameron because of the promise to withdraw from the EPP.

Before Cameron implemented this promise he was given a clear warning; the parties in the EPP, e.g. the then UMP in France and the CDU in Germany, are the Conservative Party’s natural allies and form the largest political grouping of MEPs. Everyone needs friends. Cameron was warned that, when he needed powerful friends within the EU, he would not have them if he were outside the EPP. He neglected that warning. Of course it is impossible to know how his attempts at renegotiation would have progressed had the Conservatives still been in the EPP, but I think it probable that the outcome would have been sufficiently different to have affected the referendum result.

His second sacrifice of long term interest for short term political advantage was his inclusion in the 2015 election manifesto of a commitment to “a straight in-out referendum on our membership of the European Union by the end of 2017”. He did succeed in winning an overall parliamentary majority for the Conservative Party. Of course we cannot know the extent to which this commitment affected the election result but one thing is clear, had he not made it he would still be Prime Minister today.

It was a very bad decision. It is why we are now faced with the disaster of Brexit. Also we do not take policy decisions by referendum in the UK for very good reasons. In a referendum, despite the actual question on the ballot paper, no-one really knows what question the voters have decided to use the referendum to answer. More importantly, the UK is a parliamentary democracy. Governments are formed by the party that wins a majority in the House of Commons and that government is accountable for its performance firstly to the Commons and secondly to the country at the next election. If a government is required by a referendum to follow a policy that they oppose, and let us not forget that Theresa May voted Remain, then how can that government be accountable for what results? So the Government’s insistence that the Commons must respect the referendum result regardless of how they see the country’s vital interests, is overturning a political system which has served Britain well for centuries. Further, it is engendering a popular clamour for more decisions to be taken by referenda, which could be the end of British parliamentary democracy.

Now we have the Prime Mister’s speech of 17th January which justified her position using arguments that are intellectually dishonest. Here are two examples:

1. So we will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain. Memberships of the Single Market would mean complying with the EU’s rules and regulations. We will pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. If we agree a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the EU, although it is unlikely that they would have any interest in such a negotiation, the new free trade area will need rules and an enforcement authority to prevent the erection of non-tariff barriers to trade. Without that it could not work as non-tariff barriers can be very effective in protecting national commercial interests from other countries’ imports. So why do we have to leave the Single European Market and spend probably years negotiating a new trade agreement that will not enhance UK sovereignty in any way? In the more probable eventuality that we do not achieve such an agreement with the European Union, we will fall back on our membership of the World Trade Organisation. But the WTO has its own rules which members are obliged to follow, for which the British Parliament did not vote and which it cannot change. WTO also has dispute procedures which members are required to accept. So if our trade is undertaken under WTO procedures we will still be subject to the jurisdiction of the WTO. What is the difference?

2. So we will get control of the number of people coming to Britain from the EU. Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. And that is what we will deliver. As Home Secretary Theresa May was the Secretary of State responsible for the control of immigration from non-EU countries. She was charged with significantly reducing it. This she totally failed to deliver. That failure had nothing to do with EU rules on free movement, she was just unable to achieve it. So her promise to control the number of immigrants from the EU, which even post Brexit will be more difficult than controlling non-EU immigration because of pressure from their potential employers, needs backing by her telling us what she is going to do to achieve that that she failed to do for non-EU immigration as Home Secretary.

I have a further worry. Nationalism as an evil creed; it has been the cause of countless wars. It has shown its ability to gain power by pseudo-democratic means, as it did in German in 1933. It is now growing in strength in the USA, where it will probably lead to an international trade war that will repeat the mistakes that helped lead to the Great Depression of 1929; it is strong enough in Britain to have led to the referendum result and the subsequent increase in hate crime; it is growing in France and in Holland. It must be fought under all circumstances. We now see a British Conservative government pursuing policies that have been engendered by nationalism.

So this explains why I can no longer vote for the Conservative Party and so why I have to leave BCiP. That is my personal decision; most of my friends take a different view. I am not seeking to change their minds, to an extent I envy them. However I do not see their choice as being open to me.

Robin Baker
Former BCiP Member

Memoires of a Life Long Eurosceptic - Gillian Bardinet

Mardi, janvier 31st, 2017

Very instructive and thought provoking as a contribution to the debate that should have taken place before the Referendum but could do well to help shape the final form of Brexit, here are the thoughts of former BCiP member Gillian Bardinet, who confesses herself a romantic historian, starting with the signing of the original treaty which took the UK into the then European Economic Community (EEC):

“Qu’allait-il faire dans cette galère?”
This was my question on January 22nd 1972 when the Conservative P.M. Edward Heath signed the treaty that took Britain into the EEC the European Economic Community, then more often called “The Common Market.”

What was the United Kingdom thinking of? Had no-one in government read the speeches of Europe’s founding father Jean Monnet? In his speeches his determination to create a single European country was explicit. “ Europe has never existed; one must genuinely create Europe.” And how was this to be done?

“Nothing is lasting without institutions” he said. Had no-one among British politicians understood that Robert Schuman’s Coal and Steel pact with Germany was a clear move towards that same goal?

Who had taken notice of the Cassandra warnings issued by the respected Oxford historian, A.J.P. Taylor who had written, 3 years earlier, “Politicians of all parties, seek to turn Great Britain into a purely European Country”?

How many people fully understood this? In January 1972, the answer, one must conclude, was very few.

By June 1975 the numbers had swollen: doubts, even fears were emerging. There was a call for Harold Wilsons’s Labour government to renegotiate the terms of British entry: these calls were as futile and fruitless as those which heralded David Cameron’s doomed quest for reform of the E.U. in 2016. Faced with this situation, the preferred answer, to assuage doubts and fears, was to call a referendum posing the bald question.

“Yes or No to continued membership of the E.E.C.” The popular arguments on both sides were marginally, only marginally, more succinct and better formulated than those of June 2016.

However, within Wilson’s Cabinet were a number of ambitious intellectual sophisticates, notably Roy Jenkins, and the core statement of Her Majesty’s government was one of clever dupery and deception. “The government has established that there is no agreement in the Community on what European unity means beyond a general aspiration to closer co-operation. The government’s view, which is shared by other member states, is that closer co-operation is desirable and must be pursued in a pragmatic way, but there is no support elsewhere in the Community for moves towards a centralized Federal State.”

Before the British referendum, the Belgian Prime Minister, Leo Tindemans had been asked to prepare a report on the possibility of European Union, and Willy Brandt, then Chancellor of Germany, clearly and consistently stated his desire for ultimate political union!

Nonetheless, there was no mention in the official British core statement of a European country or state with all the accompanying paraphernalia of bureaucracy. Emphasis, throughout the country was placed on the benefits of membership of a Common Market.

While this phrase may not have excited French idealists and ambitious continental Europhiles it did appeal to the British voters. From car boot sales to the Antiques Road Show, they do enjoy buying and selling, as Napoleon himself had disparagingly noted! But, they are far less enamoured of creating institutions and above all, of writing constitutions which perforce, reflect the political and intellectual climate of the time, and as seen so clearly in the U.S.A., require frequent amendments and High Court judgements.

As Theresa May so rightly pointed out in her recent speech on Jan. 17th 2017 “ the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty is the basis of our unwritten constitutional settlement”. She also noted that “ the public expect to be able to hold their governments to account very directly, and as a result, supranational institutions as strong as those created by the European Union sit very uneasily in relation to our political history and way of life”.

However, in the summer of 1975, with a resounding “Yes” to the Common Market, Britain was securely anchored to the emerging European state.

The state? SPQR – The Senate and the People of Rome – a new Roman Republic, a new American Republic? Whichever or whatever, as Jean Monnet himself had declared “nothing can exist without institutions”. And what is a state if not a collection of institutions? The task of creating a European state was one which thrilled disciples of Jean Monnet and the founding fathers. Naturally, they looked back to the ideas of the European Enlightenment, the great period which preceded and profoundly influenced both the French Revolution and the birth of the U.S.A.

Yes, there would be a European state, but would it be a truly federal state as often declared by the Europhiles, or rather, a centralized, unitary state whose nature might disturb if too openly and suddenly revealed? The word “federal” is applied to the systems of government in Germany, in Canada and in the U.S.A. But definitions of the word may vary, and abuse of it is not infrequent. Thomas Jefferson’s comments in 1810 are of great interest to those who seek to understand, and even define, the character of the nascent European state.

“ I have ever been opposed “ he wrote, “to the party so falsely called federalists, because I believe them desirous of introducing into our government, authorities ………. independent of the national will: these always consume the public contributions and oppress the people with labour and poverty. “A federal state is defined as one which marks a clear definition between central and state authority”.

Thomas Jefferson rightly feared a unitary centralized state. One of the great unanswered questions concerning the European Union is precisely this: Are the heirs of Jean Monnet seeking to entrench a unitary state? Perhaps.

Monnet himself has been accused of being “occult” or deliberately misleading in order to achieve his aims. No doubt, as both a sophisticated political scientist and an experienced negotiator, he was, but so too, were other great & successful diplomats, whose aim, like that of Jean Monnet, was the protection and nurture of their own countries: one may think back to the protracted & devious marriage negotiations which Elizabeth 1st conducted with her various suitors in order to gain time and wait for the others to declare their hands and with luck make mistakes.

I confess, I am a romantic historian, and like some others, I love to refer back to 1588, 1815 or even, on some dark days to the Witenagemot, the tragic death of Harold at Hastings and the coming of taxation with William Duke of Normany and the Domesday Book!

But, we romantic historians are in a minority among the Leavers of 2016. Less romantic Leavers, include those like Bill Cash, John Redwood and Bernard Jenkin who for years, have seen the threat to British Parliamentary Sovereignty posed by membership of the E.U.

These three are all Conservative MP’s, but there have been and still are Labour MP’s who share their fears. The most eloquent of these is without doubt, the member for Birmingham Edgbaston, Gisela Stuart. Born into a Catholic family in West Germany she had all the natural, one might almost say genetic characteristics of an ardent Europhile, but life in the Westminster Parliament & Chairmanship of a Committee looking into the relationship of Britain with the E.U. led her to consider that her adopted country should remain outside the burgeoning Eurostate.

Could she already and clearly discern the outlines of a unitary Eurostate whose features would be totally at odds with those of the U.K.? Yes, for Gisela Stuart’s strong links to two of the most important features of the Eurostate enabled her to do so. Firstly, and for many surprisingly, there is the influence of the Catholic Church. It was the former Taoisearch, Garret Fitzgerald, who opened my own eyes to this during a casual after dinner conversation in an Oxford College: in answer to my question posed more out of politeness than desire for information – “Why do you think the English are so reluctant to embrace Europe, while the Irish are happy with it?”

He replied immediately and emphatically – “450 years of divorce from Holy, Mother Church.” An interesting reply, and one which led to more investigation of the subject.

The blue flag and the 12 gold stars are one is reliably told, symbols of the Virgin Mary, and of love, harmony and peace. Yes, but the Catholic Church has also been synonymous for more than Garret Fitzgerald’s 450 years with obedience, authoritarianism and hierarchical societies. Both Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle were unswerving Catholics, when the first foundations of the quasi-mystical, overtly political Franco-German treaty was signed in 1963. Since then, its tenets have been adopted in schools, universities and most aspects of civil society in both countries. It is an article of faith.

At the end of what I had considered to be a successful year’s teaching of the political and economic significance of the E.U. my French students gave me a signed post card of the cathedral at Strasbourg and on it was written – “Thank you for an exhilarating year – but Europe is also this.” And this they believed without question.

The history of Britain, at its best has been one of flexibility, not uniformity; of questioning and reappraisal, of opposition to dogmatism.

Secondly, Gisela Stuart is a socialist and I am a life long Eurosceptic because naturally I am deeply worried by many aspects of Euro Socialism which feature of the move to political unity only became open and virtually unchallenged from 1985 with the arrival of Jacques Delors in Brussels. Previously he had been French finance minister from 1981-1984 under the premiership of Pierre Mauroy an old fashioned Socialist party activist who was appointed to this post by the newly elected President of the Republic François Mitterrand. Red Rose in hand, Mitterrand who liked to be compared to Leon Blum, pledged dramatically to bring in Socialism of the 1936 Popular Front variety. For 2 years, no efforts were spared to nationalize, to bring wages up and working hours down, with retirement up to 10 years earlier than anywhere else in Europe. Wealth was to be taxed and redistributed by the central power, the omnipresent state. To many outside the sphere of French Socialism, this experiment seemed to combine the egalitarian zeal of the Jacobins with the disregard for economic reality of the romantic socialists of the 1930’s.

Jaques Delors, a former banker, was passionately interested in labour law and rose thanks to union activity. A practising Catholic, he was revered by fellow left-wing Catholics who had helped to elect Mitterrand in 1981. Delors was a committed socialist planner and when Mitterrand’s Blum like experiment failed in France in 1983, Delors dispatched to Brussels, was delighted: far from any sense of failure, he whole-heartedly embraced the challenge of establishing socialism, under the guise of social democracy throughout Europe. There would be no re-appraisal of things past; in Europe “les acquis” however outdated and unfit for purpose were and still are, sacrosanct.

Meanwhile, across the Channel, where neither Heath nor Wilson had prevailed against “the robber barons of the system” – the trades unions who had virtually held the country hostage, Margaret Thatcher was creating the conditions in which the British people could create jobs and wealth and recover their self-esteem.

Despite the fact that a clash of opinions between Delors and Thatcher looked inevitable, this was not initially a period of Euroscepticism , but rather one of Euro optimism with British MEP’s representing their own constituencies, holding surgeries, maintaining close contact with the electorate. Such people as Henry Plumb MEP for the Cotswolds, and Diana Elles in the Thames Valley to mention two whom I met and admired personally, were having an impact on the debates within the European Parliament. Margaret Thatcher herself was to declare “ We British are as much heirs to the legacy of European culture as any other nation”.

But, when Jacques Delors addressed the T.U.C. Congress in Bournemouth, ostensibly inviting the members to join with their European brothers under European Law, the gloves were off. Was Europe really to encroach on national territory in this way and to this extent? The immediate result was Margaret Thatcher’s Bruges speech in Sept 1988 in which she notably declared, ”We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels”. Definitions of the state clearly differed and the fear expressed by the British P.M. was exacerbated by the fact that as she said, “decisions will be taken by an appointed bureaucracy.” Where did this leave the era of the local British MEP in his cosy constituency office, talking to his electors about the impact of European projects on British agriculture or industry?

Interestingly, Margaret Thatcher also mentioned Europe’s Christian legacy “with its recognition of the unique and spiritual nature of the individual”. To many this might seem to be a definition of Protestant man and woman, with “ clear beliefs in personal liberty.” Would it be unfair to see in this part of her speech, a natural reference to the Reformation as opposed to the enforced uniformity and obedience of the Roman Catholic world?

Two visions of what was still at that time the European Community, not yet the Union: two visions which would lead to acrimony across Europe, splits within the British Conservative party and ultimately to Brexit. January 24th 2017 The British Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a Parliamentary vote on the triggering of article 50. Many “Leavers” are dismayed by this decision, but surely it should be seen as the restoration of sovereignty to the elected chamber, to the elected and accountable representatives of the people. The role of the over-mighty, unelected House of Lords will no doubt come in for some close scrutiny of its own!

As a Eurosceptic, I salute this decision. I trust that now we shall have the debate we should have had during the referendum campaign. I trust that we shall have talk of government by consent, that we shall talk of the need to have laws which are accepted because, debated and not arbitrarily imposed from above and beyond. I trust that now we shall pay more heed to those in poorer areas who, unfashionably, by voting “Leave” were seeking the comfort of a land in which social trust engenders, as it has done for centuries, a society of stability and serenity. Fear and incomprehension gave rise to too much emotion in the pre-referendum days. There is no need, no justification to hold a second referendum, falling into the Euro mode of voting and voting again until the answer suits the Euro citadel in Brussels.

To those who voted “Remain” perhaps thinking wistfully of the delights of Umbria, Courcheval or the Dordogne, may I say, that in very many ways I believe it is Great Britain which has shown itself to be the land of liberty, equality and fraternity, the land which, as with the agrarian and industrial revolutions, is in the vanguard. Time now to make the very best of the freedom & responsibility which Brexit has delivered.

Gillian Bardinet
Former Member, BCiP.

Conservative Group for Europe (CGE): Report on Brexit Meeting 22nd Nov. 2016

Dimanche, novembre 27th, 2016

With Brexit such a contentious issue, British Conservatives in Paris (BCiP) is publishing news of various kinds concerning Brexit negotiations and this report is from one of our members: Edward de Mesquita has given us permission to publish his text.

The Conservative Group for Europe (CGE): Meeting at Westminster on Tuesday evening, 22nd November 2016.
Report by Edward de Mesquita, BCiP member.

The meeting was chaired by Sir Nicolas Soames MP and the guest speaker was Alistair Burt MP, who gave us a short résumé on the current status of negotiations for Brexit.

We were informed that the EU Commissioners are resisting any UK discussions with individual countries and are putting pressure on member states not to negotiate with the UK individually but solely to handle the UK’s departure on a collective basis. (My impression was that this smacked of bullying by the Brussels Commissioners to take away the influence that any individual country may wish to exert.) We were informed that the Commission is very worried about the populism spreading around the world.

As regards our negotiations so far, the Commissioners are discouraging any such talks until Article 50 is triggered. It is becoming apparent that they wish to give the UK a very hard time in order to discourage other member states from doing likewise. However, there is a new fear that if the other member states see the UK being punished for wishing to leave the EU, then this will give the impression that the EU is an institution that, once you are in, it will be near impossible to leave. The latter argument has not really taken hold yet but it is growing.

Anna Soubry MP and former Business Minister, who was a committed ‘Remain’ campaigner before the Referendum, informed us that there is a constitutional hurdle looming whereby the devolved parliaments of Scotland and, Wales, etc. will have to pass their own respective legislation before Article 50 can be invoked. We were told that even if the Commons voted in favour of triggering Article 50, this decision is reversible. If the lawyers find the Scottish vote to be constitutionally obligatory, then when the Scottish Parliament votes against such legislation, which they clearly will, what happens next is anybody’s guess. There was also a representative from the House of Lords who informed us that the vast majority of Peers oppose Brexit.

I was in a room with around thirty people, many of whom had spoken in fringe meetings on Brexit and its consequences at the Conference, so I knew quite a few of them. The CGE are a small group but very determined. There were all sorts of small business people including a lady who ran a farm in Wales and who depended on short term foreign labour for her harvest. When I spoke, I gave a few examples of the difficulties faced by small businesses like mine who rely on the freedom to go ’shopping’ for imported European goods; I briefly cited other examples of small importers who rely on the freedoms of access to the single market. I pointed out that Jaguar-Range Rover and Nissan have attracted huge PR attention but there are literally millions of small businesses who would be devastated by import duties, delays in bonded warehouses and a mass of red tape, etc., who get no press attention whatever. These businesses represent a huge chunk of UK employers and our demise would mean the loss of millions of jobs and tax revenue.

The CGE needs funding to promote the argument that the UK desperately needs to maintain its access to the European free market to safeguard millions of small enterprises who rely on quick and easy importing and exporting to run their businesses.

Edward de Mesquita
BCiP member

Diplomacy must change to going up with the Sound of the Trump!

Mercredi, novembre 23rd, 2016

I never thought that I would say this, but I have to admit that Donald Trump has now convinced me. The present conventions of diplomacy are wrong and must be changed.

Which country is the more affected by the choice of an ambassador, the host country or the country sending the ambassador. The question clearly answers itself. The host country has to put up with his presence; the country he represents merely gets rid of him. Therefore, from now, it must be the host country who decides whom the ambassador shall be.

So, if President-elect Trump wants Nigel Farage, he should have him; subject only to another country where his presence would be more appropriate, I have in mind North Korea, having the right of pre-emption. Think of the benefits this system could offer. Perhaps we could persuade Zimbabwe to demand Boris Johnson, or outer Mongolia David Davis. A left-wing English friend of mine says that Britain should claim Bernie Saunders as its American ambassador, my personal view is that most British, or perhaps I should say most British men, would prefer Scarlett Johansson. Of course the British would ask for Carlo Bruni from France, even if that meant them having to put up with Sarko coming with her. That would save money, as she could represent both France and Italy à la fois.

Inevitably there would be some minor disadvantages; the UK would have to make it clear that neither of the Middleton sisters are permitted to reside outside Britain, and can anyone think of three famous Belgians whom other countries could seek? But such difficulties are made to be overcome. As someone has not quite said, the sound of the trump means the sound of the trump.

Robin Baker
BCiP Member

Limited Edition Prints with EU Referendum Theme - offered by Rafael Pittman.

Mardi, novembre 22nd, 2016

Following his successful auctions at the last two Conservatives Abroad Conferences in London, artist and BCiP member Rafael Pittman is offering to BCiP members and friends, two more limited edition, signed prints with an EU referendum theme:

• “Larry the Downing Street Cat” is an artist’s proof, giclee print of an original photograph tryptich taken in Downing Street in 2012 and captioned: Larry on the LookOut….or…..In. A framed print size 28 x 36 cm will be available for auction (€50 reserve price) at our Christmas party on the 10th December.

img_9297
“Larry on the LookOut…or…In” Copyright Raf. Pittman 2016

• “Pelican EU” is a giclee print of an original woodcut “Pelican Boat” adapted for Conservatives Abroad as a commemorative EU referendum piece and captioned: Yes we Pelican. A limited edition of 10 only prints at €50 each are available as advertised with image and can be bought or collected at our speaker dinner on 1st December or Christmas party on the 10th December.

fullsizerender
“Yes we Pelican” Copyright Raf. Pittman 2016

You can contact us here to find out more.

“Votes for Life” Feedback & Brexit Survey - Heather Harper, Chairman Conservatives Abroad

Vendredi, octobre 28th, 2016

Dear Colleague,

I am delighted to tell you that Chris Skidmore MP, The Constitution Minister, has launched the Government’s policy statement on the Votes For Life Bill. Speaking at our Conservatives Abroad Conference earlier this month on the eve of the launch, he explained how the proposed legislation would remove the ban on expats voting if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years.

You can see the full document here.

The Government is seeking feedback on its proposals so please do have your say.

This is a great victory for Conservatives Abroad. For many years we have been leading the campaign to restore expat voting rights and we are confident that millions will now be enfranchised in time for the next General Election.

Our Conference also looked at how to ensure that Britons living in European Union member states will be able to continue their lives abroad post-Brexit. We have decided to survey members on the issues that concern them and turn this into a manifesto to use in our continued discussions with the Government over the terms of Brexit. We will be sending out a survey over the next few weeks. I hope that those of you living in mainland Europe will be able to contribute to it.

With delegates from countries including the US, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, France, the Czech Republic and Australia, the Conference also explored best practice from delegates on issues such as building up branches, increasing voter registration, campaigning, fundraising, and a discussion about the next phase of growth of Conservatives Abroad.

Our Annual Reception and Dinner on the evening before our Conference was sold out as representatives from all over the world heard Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade, explain how his new department is preparing Britain’s economy for life outside the European Union. You can see pictures of the event on our Facebook page ” Conservatives Abroad“.

Thank you for your continued support of the Conservative Party through our global constituency. Please let us know how best we can support you.

Yours sincerely

Heather Harper MBE
Chairman Conservatives Abroad

Great Britain and Europe: The EU Referendum Opportunity

Lundi, juin 20th, 2016

Following her hard-hitting political and historical review “Ship of Fools”, BCiP member Monique Riccardi-Cubitt traces the relationship between Great Britain and Europe when addressing as an opportunity the currently hot topic of the EU Referendum vote on 23rd June, 2016.

GREAT BRITAIN AND EUROPE.
THE BREXIT REFERENDUM : AN OPPORTUNITY FOR REASSESSMENT AND A NEW DIRECTION.

…If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.

The verses of John Donne, the 17th century metaphysical poet, seem particularly relevant at this time of uncertainty in the face of the forthcoming British referendum on the continued membership of Britain to the European community, the so called Brexit. The United Kingdom is indeed a promontory in Europe, a privileged look-out post from which to see further and higher on European issues.

Its membership was by no means an easy process. Historically Britain feared any continental alliance with possible imperial ambitions. Its own Empire was slowly disintegrating, but the bonds of loyalty to the Crown, and trade within the Commonwealth, remained as strong as ever. Britain, the first globalized nation, was opened to the world and did not share France and Germany’s heavy moral burden of the Second World War’s negative inheritance, although it had played a decisive role in the final Allied victory.

Churchill, was awarded in 1955 the International Prix Charlemagne of Aachen for his action toward the unification of Europe after the Grand Congress of Europe he had instigated in 1948 in The Hague, which led to the creation of the Council of Europe in 1949, and the Rome Treaty in 1957 on the Common Market, effectively creating the European Community of the Six : France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, ‘ …to establish the foundations of a ceaselessly closer union between European people.’ He had formulated his vision in a Speech to the academic youth given in 1946 at the University of Zurich ‘There is a remedy which … would in a few years make all Europe … free and … happy. It is to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe. The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important.. If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join the Union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can.’

He was echoing a concept born after the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon, exiled on St. Helena, had himself formulated the dream, which his megalomaniac thirst for personal glory had prevented him achieving : ‘Europe thus divided into nationalities freely formed and free internally, peace between States would have become easier: the United States of Europe would become a possibility.’ But Pax Napoleonica never shone over the world as had done Pax Romana. Yet in Europe, torn by recurring wars and revolutions, this pacifist and humanist ideal found ardent advocates throughout the 19th century. In 1831 Wojciech Jastrzębowski, the Polish naturalist, pionneer of ergonomics, had exposed his vision of a European international organization in a pamphlet : About the everlasting peace between the nations.

This concept was also Giuseppe Mazzini’s, like Napoleon a Genoese born under French rule, a politician and journalist. He was a fervent advocate of patriotism in his political action for the creation of an Italian state, as much as a fervent believer in a unified Europe. In 1834 he founded in Switzerland the Giovine Europe ( Young Europe), a visionary international movement. Its fondamental precept of national liberty denounced and opposed the dictates of the 1815 Congress of Vienna, by which the dominion of a few great European powers, namely Russia, Britain, Prussia and Austria, oppressed smaller nations. In his hope and action for a freely associated Republican league of European nations, where common interests would be shared and be regulated by a central federal assembly, Mazzini the revolutionary was called the prophet of Europe.

This prophetic vision found a bard in Victor Hugo, the French politician, poet, novelist and artist, who declared in 1849 at the Paris International Peace Congress : ‘A day shall come when all of you nations of the Continent : France, Russia, Italy, England, Germany, will fuse tightly together in a higher entity without losing your own intrisic qualities and your own glorious individuality, and you will form a European brotherhood… A day shall come when we shall see … the United States of America and the United States of Europe face to face, reaching out for each other across the seas…A day shall come when they will not be any battle fields left other than markets opening to trade and minds opening to ideas…In the twentieth century it shall be called Europe, then transfigured it shall be called Mankind.’ Hugo’s vision was one of universal peace : Europe, including Britain, the motherland of European democracy, where like Mazzini he had lived in exile, would be the leading example and guiding light.

Little could he foresee the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, which he lived in besieged Paris, and the ensuing 20th century Franco-German conflicts, the two devasting World Wars, which would set the whole world ablaze, radically altering it. After the defeat of Sedan and the fall of the Second Empire, in 1871 the French National Assembly had called for a United States of Europe, and in 1929, after the horrors of the First World War, Aristide Briand, the French Prime Minister, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1926, called for a European Federation at the League of Nations, a vision of Europe also shared by Trotsky before the Russian Revolution. In it the torch of universal peace still shone. Churchill, having foreseen early the danger of Hitler’s rise, and of Nazi Germany’s agressive expansionnist strategy seeking to impose its hegemony worldwide, became its main bearer. He declared at The Hague European Congress in 1948 : ‘We must endeavour by patience and faithful service to prepare for the day when there will be an effective world government resting on the main groupings of mankind.’

Europe’s destiny was to show the way, and England was to play a major part in it. In 1948, at a Conservative Meeting at Llandudno, Churchill outlined Britain’s unique position at the hub of ‘ three majestic circles’ the ‘Empire and Commonwealth’, ‘the English speaking world’ and a ‘United Europe’. These three circles were for him ‘co-existent’ and ‘ linked together’ in a truly globalized vision : ‘We are the only country which has a great part in every one of them. We stand, in fact, at the very point of junction, and here in this Island at the centre of the seaways and perhaps of the airways also, we have the opportunity of joining them all together.’ In May 1947 at a meeting in the Albert Hall of the United Europe Movement, which he had founded and chaired, he spoke of ‘… the idea of a United Europe in which our country will play a decisive part…’ Britain and France would be ‘ … founder-partners in this movement’, and ‘… Britain will have to play her full part as a member of the European family.’

His resolve over the matter was such that, after the German invasion of France in May 1940, supported by his Party and Cabinet, he had announced in June 1940 the Declaration of Union between Great Britain and France, ‘ The two governments declare that France and Great Britain shall no longer be two nations, but one Franco-British Union… Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain; every British subject will become a citizen of France.’ An Anglo-French stamp featuring King George VI and French President Albert Lebrun was conceived to commemorate the union.
george-vi-and-albert-lebrun
The rise of Marshall Pétain and the creation of the collaborationnist Vichy government in occupied France, brought this plan to an abrupt end. It is in this context of a France divided onto itself between Collaborateurs and Résistants, the latter themselves divided into Gaullists and Communists, that the much used, and misused, rebuff of Churchill to De Gaulle on the eve of the 1944 Normandy landings, must be understood : ‘ If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea. Every time I have to decide between you and Roosevelt, I will always choose Roosevelt.’

De Gaulle did not share Churchill’s lofty vision of a unified Europe as a premise for universal world peace. He held a French traditonalist view of Germany, and for him the settlement of the centuries-old rivalry and conflict between, as he said : ‘Les Gaulois et les Germains’, (The Gauls and the Teutons ), was the main motivation : ‘Europe, it’s France and Germany’. In this he did not share either his French compatriots Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman’s opinions and active involvement in the realization of European unity. Jean Monnet had declared in 1950 : ‘ The prosperity of our European community is inextricably linked to the development of international exchange. Our Community shall thus contribute to the solving of the world’s free exchange problems.’ He resumed his humanist ideal in stating : ‘We do not form a coalition with the various States, but their people.’ It was at the antipodes of De Gaulle’s beliefs who violently denounced Monnet and Schuman’s initiatives in the face of the rising Cold War towards a common Western European economic, political and military policy supported by the United Sates, with the creation in 1952 of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), a consultative assembly of 78 to neutralize any future return of the Franco-German rivalry, the signing of the Rome Treaty and the paving of the way for Britain’s entry. Schuman, then Prime Minister, had declared in 1949 : ‘Wihout Britain there can be no Europe.’

De Gaulle expounded his views on the Common Market as directed by ‘ a common commission which would, of course, be composed not of people like Jean Monnet, a supranational stateless man, but with qualified civil servants.’ Thus the European Parliament, which started as the consultative Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community with 78 appointed parliamentarians drawn from the member states national parliaments, with no legislative mandates, has now grown over the years into an overblown structure of byzantine complexity, where discordant voices are heard, powerfuls lobbies exercise pressions on commissions, where there is no vision for the future, no guiding master plan and true common policy. The splitting of the Parliament between Brussels and Strasbourg, to comply with France’s unreasonable demands, is not only a gross waste of time, of ressources and energy, but constitutes an obvious impediment for the efficient functionning of the structure, which amounts to a near sabotage of the Founding Fathers of the European Union’s dream and ideals. France has a heavy responsibility in the floundering of the institution, having imposed upon it its ancestral nationalist interests without thought of the future common good, its cumbersome administration, and its fastidious bureaucracy which calls to mind Aesop’s fable of The Dog and its Reflection. La Fontaine took up its moral in his own fable:

We all are deceived in this world.
One can see so many madmen
Running after the shadow of a prey,
That one cannot count them all.

De Gaulle staunchly opposed Britain’s entry in the Common Market, and twice vetoed its membership in 1961 and 1967, on the same grounds which, one must say, had made Churchill doubt about the good of it for Britain, as he told the House of Commons in 1950 ie : Britain’s position, ‘at the centre of the British Empire and Commonwealth’, and, ‘ our fraternal association with the United States of America.’ But he went on ‘ We are prepared to consider and, if convinced, to accept the abrogation of national sovereignty, provided that we are satisfied with the conditions and the safeguards… national sovereignty is not inviolable, and it may be resolutely diminished for the sake of all men in all the lands finding their way home together.’ Britain’s former Prime Minister Edward Heath, who successfully negotiated the United Kingdom’s entry in the European Community on January 1st 1973, who had known and worked with Churchill, wrote in an article in the Guardian in 1996 : ‘… I am sure Churchill would now favour a policy that enabled Britain to be at the heart of the European Union… Churchill would be the first to realise that in the world today, where an isolated Britain would be dwarfed by five great powers, the United States, Russia, China, Japan and the European Union, Britain’s full participation in the European Union is vital, both for Britain and the rest of the world.’

In his seminal speech at the Congress of Europe in 1948, Churchill had called for a European Charter and a Court of Human Rights. France, the European nation which had issued in 1789 the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, directly inspired by the 1776 American Declaration of Independance, ‘ All men are born equal’, with the right to ‘ Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’, conceived by President Jefferson of English ancestry, was not at the vanguard of this visionary humanist initiative. It had to face its own demons which have haunted the French for centuries. Without going back to the northern Crusade against the southern Cathars, the fight between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians, the Wars of religions, French history is the story of an endlessly violent internal fight beween conflicting values and factions, interspersed with intermittent periods of remission. It is a country forever divided onto itself, and the shadow of a national psychosis has grown heavy over the centuries, in particular since, in more recent times, for all its claims to rationalism in the ‘Age of Enlightenment’, it has never adequately dealt with and exorcized the moral trauma of the 1789 Revolution : its regicide and the horrors of civil war perpetrated during the ensuing Terror. Bonaparte did manage to bring back some stability and prosperity for a while during the Consulate and First Empire, but at the price of endless wars which devastated Europe and did not create permanent political cohesion internally. Throughout the 19th century the pendulum swang between Monarchists and Republicans, between the radicalised socialist revolutionary urban society and the traditionally conservative Catholic large population of rural France. The situation exploded with the 1871 Paris socialist Commune, which ruled over the city for 3 months, its repression during the ‘ Bloody Week’, and the formation of the Third Republic by Thiers.

Usually united in the face of common ennemy, it was not the case in 1940, and after the Second World War, it was the noxious inheritance of the Vichy government and Collaboration that France had to face up to and deal with. It was by no means an easy task, even Alsatian-born Schuman, one of the Founding Fathers of Europe had at one time participated in the Vichy government, to be reinstated in political life by De Gaulle in 1945. It was of course a matter of degree of involvement and circumstances. Thus Maurice Papon, the former Bordeaux police prefect, who, under the Nazi occupation had sent French Jews to death camps, became a Gaullist after the war and held important official posts. He played a key role during the Algerian war, using torture against prisoners and ordering the 1961 Paris massacre of the FNL demonstrators whose bodies were thrown in the Seine in unknown number. De Gaulle, who had been called to the presidency to deal with the Algerian crisis in the hope of retaining this French colony, awarded him the Légion d’Honneur that same year. It was not until 1998 that Papon was caught up by his bloody past, he was then put on trial and condemned for crimes against humanity. Mitterand, who as President abolish the death penalty in France in 1981, had sentenced 45 Algerian members of the FNL to the guillotine in 1956-57 as Minister of Justice during the Algerian war. Mitterand also came under strong suspicions of collaboration in the 1980’s and 90’s for his involvement with the Vichy goverment and his close friendship with René Bousquet, the former Vichy chief of police who sent thousand of French Jews to their death. Among other misdeeds he was responsible, for the infamous 1942 Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup. He was assassinated in 1993 before his trial for crimes against humanity had started.

Put into this context, it is easy to see that France’s involvement with the European Community has never been from the beginning an easy and straigtforward one, but tinged with ambivalence and overshadowed by the spectres of the past. It is also easy to understand Churchill’s sometime wavering and reservations about joining the European Union. Yet Britain’s membership can be seen, in some respects, as bringing an outer necessary balancing element in the European union between the two major protagonists, France and Germany. This precious independent voice must be preserved, even if it becomes at times dissonant. This is the case with the present referendum which emphasizes many of the deficiencies of a nearly 60 years’s old institution, which has grown in a fairly haphardly manner, assuming an overblown dimension, with redundant features. The whole structure of the European Community needs to be reassessed in the light of the realities of a changed world : globalization, immigration, financial crisis, the threat to the environment of an over-industrialized world, the threat to European and world peace of growing radicalized extremist groups whether terrorists or right-wing populists, the rise of Daesh in the Middle East. Britain’s call for a referendum can act as a gad-fly, a necessary evil, to trigger off a salutary reassessment of Europe’s state and status, and redefine its aims, its role and position, within its own frontiers and in the world at large.

It is time also to take stock of European’s policies on solidarity and humanitarian issues, as well as protection and defense of its frontiers. The richer Northern countries cannot expect the poorer ones such as Greece, Spain and Italy, to have to deal alone with the surge of migrants leaving their own countries spurred on either by wars, as in the Near and Middle East, or economic disasters, as in Africa. They are often the results of Western interventionnism in their inner politics, or over-exploitation of their natural ressourses to profit large international groups.

Since many voices are being heard speaking of ‘European Christian roots and values’, these various people or groups would do well to remember that ‘Caritas’ is a cardinal Christian virtue. It is neither ‘condescending’, as had said Margaret Thatcher when asked about compassion, nor is it gratuitous charity. It encompasses the concepts of fraternal brotherhood and solidarity, it is a basic value, which the Founding Fathers of Europe advocated, for all men, whatever their race, their creed, their religion. They were Christian Democrats and their vision was meant to bring peace, harmony and prosperity to all, in accordance with the recognition and respect of the dignity of man in his spiritual dimension, for all men and all religions, a religious pluralism as recognized by the Belgian Jesuit Jacques Dupuis. All men are equal is a basic Christian tenet. Man as a spritual being enjoys a fondamental right, and this right is unalienable. It depends in no way of the State and must be recognized and acknowledged. And all men are linked in the working for the common good of all.

This equality between men has little to do with the radical socialism which erupted in France in the 19th century. Whereas Karl Marx, who had lived in the Commune in Paris in 1871 and written a book about it, saw in it a source of inspiration as ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat…, the withering away of the state…, the glorious harbinger of a new society’ Mazzini, ‘the prophet of Europe’ condemned its excesses, denounced the Socialist and Communist materialism and ‘class struggle’, advocating instead ‘class collaboration’. He also denounced the evils of rationalism and atheism, rejecting the revolutionary concept of intrinsic ‘Rights’ owed to men as a source of individualism, for those of human ‘Duties’ whereas one earn one’s ‘Rights’ through virtuous living, contributing to society through hard work and self-sacrifice, which allows for man’s spiritual dimension to grow in tolerance, altruism and humanity, and thus brings peace and harmony between men and nations.

Mazzini’s Jansenist inspired ethics are similar to those of the Christian Democrats. They are also close to those of Thatcher’s own Methodist upbringing, with its emphasis on the importance of a virtuous life, education and hard work. However she may well have quoted Francis of Assisi when moving in at 10 Downing Street, but the Raegan type neo-liberalism she introduced to Britain, which Tony Blair, her ‘best follower’ in her own words, also pursued, is responsible for the worldwide grip of over- powerful financial international bodies, which precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. Untold misery has resulted for millions all over the world. Its effects must be taken into account in some of Britain’s present ills, which do not all come from the inadequacies of the European Union. In an equitable society economy and capitalism should be put at the service of all men, for their benefit and well-being. The majority of men should not be slaves to the system for the greed and profit of the few. The respect of others would then go together with the respect of their environment, and nature would be preserved as a common inheritance to be protected and husbanded in the care and awareness of the natural ressources made available, to ensure a sustainable development. This is also a Christian Democrat notion. As is the decentralisation of the State’s administrative powers to percolate down to the various social groupings, allowing for a better respect of individual liberties, including religious ones, and the free teaching of the various religions, with obvious implications for Europe.

The present situation in Europe hardly reflects this earlier ideal, when in France, for example, under the pretext of laïcité, which should be tolerance of all religions, but is repression of all forms of religious symbols for the sake of secularisation and Socialist atheism, there is a constant vociferous debate over the wearing of the veil for Muslim women. Britain who can boast in London the first Muslim mayor of a European capital city, brings a pacifying note to the widespread European clamour of racial and religious discrimination. The United Kingdom in its ancestral institutions, the Common Law set by the Norman William the Conqueror, the Magna Carta, the Parliament, its monarch anointed according to the ancient French coronation ceremony, the traditions and people inherited from its former Empire and Commonwealth, enjoys a historic continuity, right to the survival of earlier Saxon’s features. It is the source of Britain’s inner sense of pride and security enabling the nation to face, and to survive, the vagaries of life and the passing of time. Is it necessary to recall that England’s mottoes are in French, Dieu et mon Droit, and Honni soit qui mal y pense ?

France, with England the oldest European nation, is sadly divorced from a large part of its historical past, and forever shaken by social commotions in an endlessly feverish search for the new, unable to build on foundations made shaky through its own self-destructive tendencies. The last two presidencies are a sad testimony to France’s decline at all levels, nationally and internationally. The governing of the country has just become an empty two-dimensional media show, exercised with neither true authority, nor vision and direction. The country is rapidly sinking into social chaos. Violence in conflicts between various groups and the police is on the rise. Democratic rights and basic liberties are eroded in the name of security by an authoritarian anti-demoncratic socialist government seeking to conceal its inherent incompetence and incoherence in assuming a would-be reassuring posture which is an imposture. The two international events held in Paris, the COP21 for the climate and the recent Palestine summit, are just a pathetic example of France’s incapacity of influencing international affairs through its own contradictions and idiosyncracies.

Once the largest and most important agricultural European country, France is also the Community’s highest consumer of chemical fertilizers polluting land, water and air. It is now selling vast expanses of prime agricultural land to the Chinese, who inundate the European market with its products, often filled with harmful chemicals, at vast production of CO2 during the journey. The Chinese are also colonizing the urban French landscape in buying all the small local cafés and brasseries, the French themselves cannot afford to run any longer for all the intricacies and pettiness of its bureaucracy. It is left to Angela Merkel to denounce the Chinese agressive commercial methods and the unfair dumping of steel on the European market. The French extensive waterways network remains largely unused for freight transport, the lorries’s fuel consumption continue to pollute the air with CO2, for fear of another strike and social unrest. If Sarkozy is once more elected, the mining for shale gas shall destroy an ancient land harmoniously fashioned by the hand of men over thousands of years, and pollute forever the ground water.

France’s position in the Middle East has been totally discredited by Sarkozy’s erratic governement and its perverse and corrupt relationship with Libya and Syria. Holland’s government held a summit on international policy over Palestine, yet it penalizes French people who stand for the economic boycott of Israeli products to stop the spread of Jewish settlements in Arab-owned land in Palestine. France’s guilt over the Jewish persecution during the Second World War still exercises a powerful hold on its home and foreign policy, and does not allow for any objectivity and constancy in its attitude towards the region’s political situation. Despite its former mandates and colonies in Arab-speaking countries, France has never had the equivalent of the British Middle East Centre of Arabic Studies, (MECAS), created after the war by Sir Bertram Thomas in Jerusalem to form an elite Arabist corps at the Foreign Office. The French Intelligence Services do not even have Arab-speaking agents to track and detect potential terrorists on their own territory, and have to employ outside bilingual translators for the job.

Mazzini had advocated the following of thought by action, denouncing intellectualism, and rationalizing for its own sake, a French fault to excess now reflected in the European Union’s management and administration. With the overmediatization of all human actions, it is rarely thought that is now concerned, but rather words. It seems that words are beeing issued without prior rational and reasonable thinking, under emotional impulse and on the spur of the moment, with no sincerity nor convictions. If not meant to deliberately confuse in the perverse disinformation game of political propaganda. With France’s sorry weakened state on home ground, in Europe and abroad, Britain must stand for steadfastness and determination, and give the Community a new direction. It must endeavour to reform the European Union for the better, on the strength of its unique position. It is to be hoped that it shall not relinquish its privileged status with the issue of the referendum, and let the opportunity pass by. Europe would be the poorer for it, and its future, and that of the world, made bleaker.

What more to add but to quote Shakespeare’s verses ? The words of the Plantagenet English king, Edward II, born in Bordeaux, depicted on the Wilton Dyptich kneeling at the Court of the Virgin in the company of the English royal saints Edward the Confessor and Edmund the Martyr, bearing on this mantle his royal badge, a white hart. They come to me every time, when eschewing the speed and modernity of the Eurostar, I choose to see the white cliffs of Dover loom over the watery silver grey horizon, slowly coming nearer as the ferry sails across the Channel, my heart overwhelmed with emotion, my throat tightening and tears rising to my eyes. I learnt them as a teenager, when I studied Shakespeare. Aged 10 years old, I had the prescience while reading Sir Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskerville and Dickens’s David Copperfield, that to live in the modern world I had to be an anglophile. Indeed, I have lived inside Churchill ‘three majestic circles’ the ‘Empire and Commonwealth’, ‘the English speaking world’ and a ‘United Europe’ . My life has been, and still is, the richer, the fuller and the better for it.

…This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,…
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

MONIQUE RICCARDI-CUBITT
Paris, June 18th 2016

A Final Word on Brexit - As Viewed by our Representative in Greece

Dimanche, juin 19th, 2016

Read below the concluding remarks of Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad Representative in Greece, as she rounds off her previous discussion of the critical issue of Brexit or not for the United Kingdom (Great Britain: EU or Brexit?):

As we are a few days away from the referendum now, I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart all those who have ardently supported (and argued in favour of) the remaining of the UK in the EU, and all those who gave us the unique opportunity to be heard through our texts, etc.

Please allow me to suggest to the British people that they keep in mind and take into most serious consideration all the statements of the Prime Minister Mr. Cameron concerning the referendum before casting their vote.

May everyone keep in mind, as well, that the day after the referendum must be a bright day for the UK!

The future must be secured and this can be achieved only within the EU.